• Spending by third-party conservative groups has picked up recently, cutting into the financial advantage enjoyed by Democrats and their allies for much of the campaign season:
In August alone, 19 outside groups backing conservatives and Republican candidates spent $12.7 million on television and radio advertisements to bolster Senate candidates in a dozen states, according to sources familiar with the buys. The GOP groups crushed Democratic-aligned organizations, as just five independent groups bought $2.3 million worth of ads that aided four Democratic candidates. And more than half of that amount was spent to bolster the candidacy of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, the sources said.
This increase in spending coincides with the release of several polls showing Republicans with a significant advantage among likely voters and further indications that control of the Senate, as well as the House, is within the GOP’s grasp:
Overall this midterm election cycle, third-party groups have raised $53 million to help bolster Democratic candidates, about $5 million more than GOP-aligned groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But in recent weeks, Republicans have seen a sixfold advantage in third-party spending on ad buys in pivotal Senate battlegrounds, which appears to reflect the right’s enthusiasm that has put the party on the cusp of making serious gains in the Senate and retaking the House in the fall.
• Kentucky: A pair of conflicting polls out of Kentucky looks like a pretty good indicator of the voter enthusiasm gap enjoyed by Republicans. A CNN/Time poll shows a dead heat between Rand Paul and Jack Conway, among registered voters. What do likely voters think? They like Paul by 15 percent, according to two separate polls using a likely voter screen that both show the GOP candidate with a commanding lead:
Doug Heye, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, on Sunday said the poll results shouldn’t come as a surprise. “The Obama agenda is unpopular in Kentucky and candidates who have publicly supported [Obama’s health-care overhaul], like Jack Conway, are seeing their numbers drop like a rock,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Conway has disputed the results.
• Louisiana: Gov. Bobby Jindal’s silence in the Lousiana Senate race, between scandal-plagued GOP incumbent David Vitter and Democrat Charlie Melancon, is raising a few eyebrows:
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal – so far – to endorse Vitter in the Senate race shows the difficulty some politicians are having in allying themselves with a senator tainted by a 2007 prostitution scandal and more recent revelations that Vitter allowed an aide to stay on the job for two years after pleading guilty to charges stemming from an attack on his ex-girlfriend.
It also shows just how closely Jindal guards his reputation as he eyes what he wants for his next job and his political future, and it reinforces the political back-room chatter that there’s little closeness between Louisiana’s top two ranking GOP officials.
Asked earlier this month whether or not he would endorse a candidate, Jindal said, “I think the voters in Louisiana are smart enough to make up their own minds.” The latest Rasmussen poll shows Vitter with a comfortable lead against Melancon, 54 percent – 33 percent.
• New Hampshire: After a series of prominent clashes this primary season between Sarah Palin and the GOP establishment, they seem to have finally found a candidate they can both agree on. In addition to Palin, former attorney general Kelly Ayotte has received endorsements from Sen. Tom Coburn and former Sen. Rick Santorum, bolstering her bid for Judd Gregg’s Senate seat. Ayotte is favored to win tomorrow’s GOP primary, though Tea Party candidate Ovide Lamontagne has a fighting chance after a last minute endorsement from Sen. Jim DeMint. The winner will take on Democrat Paul Hodes. An August Rasmussen poll showed Ayotte with a double-digit lead against Hodes in a theoretical matchup.
• North Carolina: After a new round of polling, Rasmussen moves the Senate race between incumbent Richard Burr and Democrat Elaine Marshall from Lean Republican to Solid Republican. Burr currently leads Marshall 54 percent – 38 percent. In what is supposed to be a good year for Republicans, and in a typically conservative state like North Carolina, Burr’s performance in the polls has been rather underwhelming thus far. He appeared at risk this summer after a June poll showed him tied with Marshall following her primary run-off victory to secure the Democratic nomination, and other polls have found a general lack of voter enthusiasm for Burr, even among Republicans. For the time being anyway, Burr looks well-positioned heading into November.